Mental Health: How to Stop Recycling Your Mistakes

Shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.

Ann Lamott

What is your best mistake?

When I was 18, I took a volunteer job as a camp counsellor for a week: First mistake. To prepare, I packed my own suitcase: Mistake #2. And I forgot to pack underwear: that is #3. One week, one pair of ginch. I was the Grinch of the solo Ginch. For seven days I secretly washed my underwear in the bathroom sink. And wore them dry.

My week at camp taught me an important lesson: I pack an extra pair so I always have dry ginch. Nothing worse than wet willies.

As an adult, one of my best mistakes was applying for a job in the wrong city. Yes, I did that. Almost ten years ago, I found a posting as a Family Counsellor at a Residential Addiction Program. The website listed a number of positions, some in Calgary and others in Edmonton. I thought I applied for a job in Calgary, but I accidentally applied for a job in Edmonton. (In case you are not aware of Canadian cities, these two cities are about 3 hours apart. Same general part of the country, but far enough apart that anyone can tell the difference. Except me.) Ten years later I am still with the same team, I have grown up a little bit, and I have had some amazing experiences. And it was all by accident.

I have accidents all of the time. Don’t believe me? Just look at my head. My mind shows you my dents.

One of the accidents I have all of the time is that I am too hard on myself. I like to make mistakes and then relive it all. It’s like having your own personal 6 O’Clock news full of your own stupidity. I like to point fingers and think, “Who is that idiot?” And then I realize, “Oh that’s me.”

My name is Sean and I am in recovery from being too hard on myself.

I admit that I mess up all of the time. We all do. The part I am in recovery for is how I tend to get after myself when I make mistakes. I make things personal. No, I don’t get offended if an operator puts me on hold. But I can hold onto mistakes as a way of trying to fix things.

Lately my anxiety has spiked and I have had to take a hard look at how hard I am on myself. I am learning a couple of things:

  • I mess up but I am not a mess.


  • I am learning to get used to it, rather than feel that I have to get over it. The next time you see a car accident, slowly drive by, open your window and shout “just get over it!” Then quickly roll up your window, because the other drivers will say some Sh** back at you. Accidents happen, life can be messy. Some of us take it harder. So what? I accept that accidents will happen but I don’t accept that I should just get over things. Sometimes I need more time to figure out my stuff. That’s just me.

MMA: Make your Mistakes, Ask for help.


  • I am learning from my messes. I like to keep small piles of books and papers in my office and in my bedroom. They are my Messy Mecca: Messy piles remind me that mess can be organized and I get to be in control of a little bit of the craziness. Having a little mess keeps me sane.



  • I am learning to lighten up. I have worked as a counsellor for a lot of years. Professionally and personally I am kind to other people but I am an ass towards myself. I have to practice regular self-kindness because if I cannot love myself, I cannot truly love other people. Humor helps and so does a regular practice of Mindfulness. I have written about Mindfulness in a post on Coffee Bean Meditation, also this article What is Good Mental Health?


So, what is your best mistake? If you want to know more about how to get over being too hard on yourself, join me.

Is it time for you to stop recycling?
Is it time to stop recycling?

Keep it real

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